Why Lloyds’ big budget advertising just draws attention to the bank’s shortcomings

Lloyds Banking Group and, by extension its ad agency adam&eveDDB, is getting it in the neck for its ‘By your side’ ad campaign, the one with the black horse/horses.

A majority of the UK public think the only side Lloyds is on is its own according to a recent ComRes poll commissioned by litigators acting for TV personality Noel Edmonds who’s suing the bank for £64m, claiming it ruined his business. Some crooked managers at the Reading branch of HBOS (Halifax Bank of Scotland) laid waste a number of businesses in the days before Lloyds bought HBOS at the height of the banking crisis. Critics say that Lloyds has since failed to investigate the matter adequately, indeed kicked the issue into the proverbial long grass.

Bankers are none too popular of course, especially since the dark days of 2008 when it emerged they were lining their own pockets at the expense of customers and, eventually, taxpayers. Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) is a case in point. Lloyds has paid back nearly £20bn and still managed to turn a profit. Which tells you something about the banking industry.

A corollary of this is that, in a rock bottom interest rate scenario admittedly, UK banks offer their customers precisely zilch. Which is a dilemma for an ad agency.

Adam&eve therefore finds itself in a strange position: its biggest client is merrily spending away, with nothing to say. Here’s the latest iteration of ‘By your side.’

WTF is this all about you may ask (and we did). Look carefully and you’ll see someone with Down’s Syndrome. Lloyds is trying to do its bit for disability (be quiet at the back) but really.

A&E is also on the Halifax case and it’s produced a number of ads, some better than others, using characters from Warner Brothers films. The latest, cleverly put together, features the Wizard of Oz. As usual with Halifax it also features a hyper-friendly member of staff.

But what’s it offering? Mortgages presumably but all we learn is that Dorothy’s too young to get one. But Halifax will see mortgage-less Dorothy home. Wouldn’t go anywhere with that character personally.

All advertisers produce self-serving guff from time to time and their agencies (usually) try to make the most of not very much. But there’s a limit to this art of concealment. Banks, though, are a serious matter. Their doings affect us all – sometimes disastrously – and the least we can demand is that they tell it straight.

Lloyds and A&E need to clean up their disingenuous act.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

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